Preventing and Dealing with Suicidal Thoughts in Recovery

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Preventing and Dealing with Suicidal Thoughts in Recovery

Addiction can be a very draining condition to go through. It exhausts the mind, distorts perspectives, and may bring on feelings of despair and desperation as your entire life feels dependent on an unpredictable substance. Sadly, the pain can too hard for some people to bear, and they attempt suicide to make it stop. According to a 2011 study that appeared in Psychiatric Times, someone with an addiction issue makes men 2.3 times more likely to attempt suicide, and women as much as 6 times more likely.

The Center for Disease Control considers substance abuse the second most likely risk factor for suicidal behavior, only closely beaten out by depression and mood disorders. Entering into the recovery process can be an important life saving shift, but it may not make these suicidal thoughts go away. Many people use drugs or alcohol to make negative feelings go away.

However, this is only a short-term solution, one that only pushes these feelings deeper within you. In this case, sobriety can cause long-abandoned painful emotions to rise up, as you are suddenly without your main way of coping. For that reason, developing new ways of dealing with painful memories and emotions is an important part of recovery. Here are some things to keep in mind to help yourself or a loved one keep going through their healing, rather than giving up in the most permanent and tragic way possible.

Don’t stay alone

The first, and one of the most important, steps you can take is to surround yourself with reminders that whatever your struggles are, you are not facing them alone. You are cared for by supportive people, who will be there to remind you that hope remains. Opening up to others about your struggles and unwanted feelings can allow them to help you and be with you. You can be reminded that the hard times don’t last forever. Supportive friends can offer invaluable help, but if you find recurring suicidal thoughts to be too much to bear, you should also think about getting help from a trained professional. A therapist can help you work out a plan for your safety, help you deal with negative emotions, and work on the deeper, underlying issues.

New ways of coping

Remember that a suicidal crisis is temporary. Stuck in your own head, it may feel like things will always be hopeless, but a broader perspective can help you see that there will be a time when you will be able to once again enjoy life and have hope. Recovery can be an important time to develop new routines of caring for yourself, and do little things to remind yourself that life is worth living. Make routines of eating, sleeping, and being with people in ways that are life-giving. Exercise can be an especially powerful way of elevating your mood. Take time every day for activities that bring you joy, even a small amount of enjoyment can go a long way towards your healing.

If unwanted thoughts do come…

Sometimes, you might feel like you’re being “attacked” by depressed or anxious feelings, or thoughts of relapsing or self-harm. These might get very overwhelming in the moment, but they don’t have to control you. Almost everyone sometimes experiences thoughts that are unwanted, but those thoughts will pass by and go away over time. A helpful metaphor is to think about your mind as a busy road with your thoughts as a long line of cars passing by you.

You can simply sit by the side of the road and let things pass by, you don’t have to “get in the car,” and let the thought control your behavior, and if you do, you can “get out,” and gently move yourself back to helpful and positive thoughts. Paying meditative attention to your breathing, bringing your attention to something steady and positive in your immediate environment can be a helpful way to simply decide to keep going, if only just for “one moment at a time.” This will give you the strength to keep growing until you start to feel more healed and free.